Humanities › History & Culture Non-Canonical Retelling of the Tale of Troy Troy or Iliad and the Trojan War Share Flipboard Email Print Web Gallery of Art (Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, artist) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Greece Figures & Events Ancient Languages Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated October 02, 2019 During the time when gods were petty and cruel, three of the leading goddesses had a contest to determine who was most beautiful. They contended for the prize of Eris' golden apple, an apple no less dangerous than the one in the story of Snow White, despite its lack of consumable poison. To make the contest objective, the goddesses hired a human judge, Paris (also called Alexander), son of the Eastern potentate, Priam of Troy. Since Paris was to be paid according to the largesse of the winner, the contest was really to see who provided the most attractive incentive. Aphrodite won hands down, but the prize she offered was the wife of another man. Paris, after seducing Helen while a guest in the palace of her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta, went blithely on his way back to Troy with Helen. This abduction and violation of all rules of hospitality launched 1000 (Greek) ships to bring Helen back to Menelaus. Meanwhile, King Agamemnon of Mycenae, summoned the tribal kings from all over Greece to come to the aid of his cuckolded brother. Two of his best men -- one a strategist and the other a great warrior -- were Odysseus (aka Ulysses) of Ithaca, who would later come up with the idea of the Trojan Horse, and Achilles of Phthia, who may have married Helen in the Afterlife. Neither of these men wanted to join the fray; so they each devised a draft-dodging ruse worthy of M.A.S.H.'s Klinger. Odysseus feigned madness by plowing his field destructively, perhaps with mismatched draft animals, perhaps with salt (a powerful destructive agent used according to legend at least one other time -- by the Romans on Carthage). Agamemnon's messenger placed Telemachus, Odysseus' infant son, on the path of the plough. When Odysseus swerved to avoid killing him, he was recognized as sane. Achilles -- with blame for cowardice conveniently laid at the feet of his mother, Thetis -- was made to look like and live with the maidens. Odysseus tricked him with the lure of a peddler's bag of trinkets. All the other maidens reached for the ornaments, but Achilles grabbed the sword stuck in their midst. The Greek (Achaean) leaders met together at Aulis where they awaited Agamemnon's command to set sail. When an inordinate amount of time had passed and the winds still remained unfavorable, Agamemnon sought the services of Calchas the seer. Calchas told him that Artemis was angry with Agamemnon -- perhaps because he had promised her his finest sheep as a sacrifice to the goddess, but when the time came to sacrifice a golden sheep, he had, instead, substituted an ordinary one -- and to appease her, Agamemnon must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia .... Upon the death of Iphigenia, the winds became favorable and the fleet set sail. Trojan War FAQs [Summary: The head of the Greek forces was the proud king Agamemnon. He had killed his own daughter, Iphigenia, in order to appease the goddess Artemis (big sister of Apollo, and one of the children of Zeus and Leto), who was angry with Agamemnon and so, had stalled the Greek forces on the coast, at Aulis. In order to set sail for Troy they needed a favorable wind, but Artemis ensured the winds would fail to cooperate until Agamemnon had satisfied her -- by performing the required sacrifice of his own daughter. Once Artemis was satisfied, the Greeks set sail for Troy where to fight the Trojan War.] Agamemnon did not stay in the good graces of either of the children of Leto for long. He soon incurred the wrath of her son, Apollo. In revenge, Apollo the mouse god caused an outbreak of plague to lay the troops low. Agamemnon and Achilles had received the young women Chryseis and Briseis as prizes of war or war brides. Chryseis was the daughter of Chryses, who was a priest of Apollo. Chryses wanted his daughter back and even offered a ransom, but Agamemnon refused. Calchas the seer advised Agamemnon on the connection between his behavior toward the priest of Apollo and the plague that was decimating his army. Agamemnon had to return Chryseis to the priest of Apollo if he wanted the plague to end. After much Greek suffering, Agamemnon agreed to the recommendation of Calchas the seer, but only on condition that he take possession of the war prize of Achilles -- Briseis -- as a replacement. A minor point to think about: When Agamemnon had sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia, he hadn't required his fellow Greek aristocrats to give him a new daughter. No one could stop Agamemnon. Achilles was enraged. The honor of the leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, had been assuaged, but what about the honor of the greatest of the Greek heroes -- Achilles? Following the dictates of his own conscience, Achilles could no longer cooperate, so he withdrew his troops (the Myrmidons) and sat on the sidelines. With the help of fickle gods, the Trojans began to inflict heavy personal damages on the Greeks, as Achilles and the Myrmidons sat on the sidelines. Patroclus, Achilles' friend (or lover), persuaded Achilles that his Myrmidons would make the difference in the battle, so Achilles let Patroclus take his men as well as Achilles' personal armor so that Patroclus would appear to be Achilles in the battlefield. It worked, but since Patroclus was not so great a warrior as Achilles, Prince Hector, the noble son of Trojan King Priam, struck Patroclus down. What even Patroclus' words had failed to do, Hector accomplished. The death of Patroclus spurred Achilles into action and armed with a new shield forged by Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods (as a favor for Achilles' sea goddess mother Thetis) Achilles went into battle. Achilles soon avenged himself. After killing Hector, he tied the body to the back of his war chariot, The grief-maddened Achilles then dragged Hector's corpse through the sand and dirt for days. In time, Achilles calmed down and returned the corpse of Hector to his grieving father. In a later battle, Achilles was killed by an arrow to the one part of his body Thetis had held when she had dipped the baby Achilles into the River Styx to confer immortality. With Achilles' death, the Greeks lost their greatest fighter, but they still had their best weapon. [Summary: The greatest of the Greek heroes -- Achilles -- was dead. The 10-year Trojan War, which had begun when the Greeks set sail to retrieve Menelaus' wife, Helen, form the Trojans, was at a stalemate.] Crafty Odysseus devised a plan that ultimately doomed the Trojans. Sending all the Greek ships away or into hiding, it appeared to the Trojans that the Greeks had given up. The Greeks left a parting gift in front of the walls of the city of Troy. it was a giant wooden horse which appeared to be an offering to Athena -- a peace offering. The jubilant Trojans dragged the monstrous, wheeled, wooden horse into their city to celebrate the end of the 10 years of fighting. Who Really Built the Trojan Horse?What Is the Trojan Horse? But beware of Greeks bearing gifts! Having won the war, the filicidal King Agamemnon went back to his wife for the reward he so richly deserved. Ajax, who had lost out to Odysseus in the contest for Achilles' arms, went crazy and killed himself. Odysseus set out on the voyage (Homer, according to tradition, tells in The Odyssey, which is the sequel to The Iliad) that made him more famous than his help with Troy. And Aphrodite's son, the Trojan hero Aeneas, set out from his burning homeland -- carrying his father on his shoulders -- on his way to Dido, in Carthage, and, finally, to the land that was to become Rome. Were Helen and Menelaus reconciled? According to Odysseus they were, but that's part of a future story.